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  • Writer's pictureAshley Gilmour

Healthy Wounds

Updated: Feb 21, 2019

The more I immerse myself in my craft, the more I'm challenged to define and redefine my own role as an artist. 

In the seductive ivory tower of academia, I was encouraged to be as objective as possible - to tell two sides of a story, to carefully analyze and assess the facts, and to silence my own subjectivity. 

But as a filmmaker, I find that turning myself into a heartless skeleton turns my work into a soulless disaster. Interviews become frigid, shots become bland, and stories become trite.

Instead, I prefer to take the risk of getting bruised by the stories and struggles that I come across. I don't see myself as a martyr, but I do hope to become more and more human by replenishing my source of empathy on a daily basis. 

This desire became evermore clear when I was asked to film a significant yet disheartening event. A colleague of mine asked if I could capture one of the last services held at St James, an Anglican church in downtown Montréal. Due to budget constraints and a declining number of parishioners, they had to make the weighty decision of closing down the church. 

That Sunday morning, I woke up, carefully cleaned my camera lens, and headed out to film the service. Thinking it would be a simple two-hour shoot, I wasn't prepared for how much I would be impacted by what followed. 

I was witnessing and documenting the painful demise of a 150-year-old faith community. The choir conductor struggled to hold back his tears, an elderly man leaned up against the pew in front of him and wept, and an elegant lady quietly made her way towards the back to give herself a moment of peace. 

And there I was, just a girl with a camera, with my fingers trembling as I struggled to focus on my viewfinder through a haze of unexpected tears.

They were all complete strangers to me, and yet somehow I felt a kinship with them. 

The resounding choir of angelic voices moved me, the eloquent lyrics made me grieve, and I felt that something precious was being lost - something that I myself couldn't understand. 

Walking home that day, I realized that my role as a filmmaker couldn't be to simply hit the record button as an objective observer. I become part of what I capture, and what I capture becomes part of me. 

Interestingly, a couple of weeks later, I was called by the leader of a new church plant at St James.

He asked me if I could create a promo video about a new beginning in this stunning little church. My heart leapt, as this hope of new life had somehow become personal to me. And so again, I picked up my camera and emotionally prepared myself to invest wholeheartedly in another story worth sharing.

The mysterious interconnection that we all share is what I aspire to uphold, however small my role in the grand narrative of the human story. 

I'll leave you with a good ol' quote from one of my favourite bearded intellectuals: 

“I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person.” ― Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

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